CBS' live broadcast of George Clooney's "Fail Safe" remake will air on April 9, 9-11 PM ET), marking the first live broadcast of a dramatic movie since CBS' "Playhouse 90," which ran from October 1956 - May 1960.
The remake of Sidney Lumet's 1964 film, "Fail Safe," which was originally written and recently updated by Walter Bernstein, deals with the story of a fully nuked B-52 streaking toward Moscow at the height of the Cold War. Even more terrifying than the dramatic premise is the fact that producer actor George Clooney has the show (said to be his favorite movie) being filmed and broadcast live -- right down to the commercials by Ford Motor Media.
Figuring the show is destined for the record books, the CBS network and George Clooney have brought together a major cast for "Fail Safe," which now includes Academy Award winning actor Richard Dreyfuss, Harvey Keitel, Hank Azaria, Oscar nominee James Cromwell, Tony Award-winning actor Brian Dennehy, Sam Elliot, Don Cheadle and John Diehl who replaced Clooney's cousin, Miguel Ferrer (son of the late, Academy Award-winning actor, Jose Ferrer). Ferrer had rehearsed for three weeks with the cast but was caught between a commitment to NBC for a pilot ("Sheriff's Homicide" based on James Ellroy's book "My Dark Places") and the CBS "Fail Safe."
While the show will no doubt have a lasting influence on many careers, it is of interest to theatre executives because the techniques are, in many ways, theatrical. Various aspects of the live production are daunting. When it airs, "Fail Safe" will employ some 22 cameras and, because the show is being filmed in black and white, Clooney and CBS have dug up the old studio lights that were once used in live television to give the production an authenticity of era. On the other hand, state-of-the-art digital background and synchronization techniques are being used to ensure that the program is as seamless as possible. In any event, at a time when Broadway Digital Entertainment (Broadway Tonight) and the Broadway Television Network (BTN) are busy bringing broadcast business models to theatre, Clooney's experiment with live performance at CBS marks another significant blurring of the line between theatre and television.
The Clooney remake of "Failsafe" on CBS has been a labor of love for the actor. The former "ER" star ("ER" did a live broadcast while Clooney was with that show) has shepherded the project, personally championing certain aspects of the production that he believed were essential to its success. -- By Murdoch McBride